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University of Leicester Boosts Enrollment by 23% Since Implementing Unibuddy Community

Leicester University campus


The University of Leicester has been running its ‘Headstart’ program for two years, helping equip students for the big move to higher education. The program aims to build student confidence and excitement through a range of activities. These include student-led social media takeovers and digital skills workshops to engage students throughout the summer.

The university’s main objective for the September 2022 intake was to reduce anxiety amongst their pre-enrolled students. 

Outside the typical concerns around preparing for university and the stresses of making new friends, this cohort was uniquely concerned about one area in particular: accommodation.

It was important for Elliot Newstead, Head of UK Student Recruitment and Outreach at the University of Leicester, to tackle all of these student worries head-on. He needed a space where staff and faculty could offer support and guidance, but also a forum where students could talk through their concerns directly with each other and share their lived experiences.


In the Spring of 2022, Elliot started building Leicester’s September 2022 cohort Community through Unibuddy. He invited all offer-holders through a range of channels. These included the built-in email invitation function direct from Unibuddy, their offer-holder email communications, website pages, and QR codes at in-person events.

As students entered the Leicester Community, they were greeted with topic-based groups such as student finance, commuting, preparing for university, and exam prep. The most popular group was “Life, the universe and everything,” just shy of 1,000 members. This group acted as an open forum for students to chat about whatever they wanted in the hope it would help form friendships over shared interests. The second most popular group, with over 850 students, focused on accommodation, which peaked in popularity closer to the students’ arrival date. 

Anxiety around student accommodation grew as external stories continued to surface around the student housing crisis in the UK. Many universities have experienced oversubscribed halls of residence, causing students to be housed in neighboring towns.  Those who had chatted in the group felt confident and reassured that the University of Leicester would be able to provide adequate housing close to campus.

Elliot was particularly impressed with the ability to add new groups and adapt the Community over time:

“Headstart is quite an agile campaign, so it’s great to have the flexibility to be able to pivot towards student needs and relevant topics, whenever necessary, by adding new groups in the community.”


Since using Unibuddy Community, the University of Leicester has seen a 23% increase in undergraduate enrollment compared to last year, leading to an estimated £6.3M in additional revenue*. This goes to show how important it is to facilitate those opportunities for connection and community amongst Gen Z and incoming students.

Elliot Newstead explains:. 

At our in-person events, students are often there with their parents or chatting with our student ambassadors. This is great, but rarely do they get to connect with the people they’re going to be studying with. That’s what’s important, and that’s what makes Unibuddy Community so special.”

With over 1,200 students in their September 2022 Community, Elliot was glad to see the safe space they created was so well-received by incoming students. Through Unibuddy Community, the ‘Headstart’ program achieved what it set out to do –  calming students’ nerves and quelling pre-enrollment anxieties:

“Starting university can feel scary, but being able to have somewhere for people to chat with each other has helped reduce anxiety massively. It shows students how many other people are in the same boat, and allows them to make real connections with those people.”

The future

Inspired by the success of their September 2022 Community, Elliot Newstead and his team are already thinking about how they use Community in 2023 – this time focusing on a sense of belonging and supporting the cost of living. 

They will also use Community as an experiment for their 16-17 year-olds program for underrepresented groups – creating a space for students to explore the idea of higher education opportunities earlier in their journey. 

*(based on students completing their course of study)

Use Cases

The University of Leicester’s ‘Headstart’ program aimed to reduce anxiety amongst pre-enrolled students.


Since using Unibuddy Community, the University of Leicester has seen a 23% increase in undergraduate enrollment compared to last year, leading to an estimated £6.3M in additional revenue

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